Recently OnePlus fans had a rude awakening when they discovered their OnePlus phones couldn’t stream HD content from services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Videos and Google Play, irrespective of their subscription pack.
The issue was the missing Widevine DRM Level 1 (L1) certificate which is required for all major content streaming platforms for HD streaming. OnePlus was using the L3 certificate instead that authorizes access to SD content only.
We never quite noticed this omission before it was pointed out for OnePlus phones. Now we have been looking for DRM certificate across affordable phones and the most of the phones in this budget have Level 3 (L3) certification (even when the hardware is L1 compatible).
Several popular phones including Redmi Note 5 Pro, Mi A1, and Honor 9 Lite have L3 certificate and cannot stream HD content from Netflix, Amazon Videos, etc.
On the other hand, affordable phones from Motorola (Moto G5 Plus), Asus (Zenfone 3) and Samsung (Galaxy On7 Prime) that we tested do have Widevine DRM L1 Certificate.
However, we noticed that even affordable phones that do support DRM Level 1 certificate (as mentioned above) and have Full HD display resolution do not support HD streaming.
So, basically, all popular phones in India under Rs. 20,000 don’t support HD streaming.
Update: Apart from DRM L1 certificate, additional approval by Netflix is also required for HD streaming. Devices that aren’t acknowledged by Netflix won’t support HD streaming even if they have DRM L1 certificate. This is why several of the affordable phones that we tested can’t stream HD in spite of proper certification.
If you have a DRM L1 certified device, you can make HD streaming work by patching the APK. However, if you patch the APK, your Netflix app will no longer update automatically from play store.
What is Widewine DRM certification and why is it required?
Widevine Digital Rights Management (DRM) standards have been defined based on device security for content protection. They are meant to prevent copying or piracy of data that these services push across the internet to their users.
Services that use DRM can stream befitting content quality depending on the security and hardware at the user end without much work on the server end.
Widevine standards integrate Common Encryption (CENC), licensing key exchange, and Dynamic adaptive streaming over HTTP (DASH) for secure transmission.
There are three certification levels: L1, L2, and L3. Your phone needs to be L1 certified in order to be able to stream HD content.
Not only Android phones but many Laptops and most Browsers on Desktop support L3 certificate only. For instance, Chrome Browser on Desktop is L3 certified and can only stream in HD using Netflix and other services.
Why Manufacturers don’t add DRM L1 certificate?
The most important point to note is that all modern chipsets are compatible and Widevine doesn’t charge any licensing fee. So, the only reason why manufacturers are ignoring this is oversight and because users are not particularly asking for this.
Can you get Widevine DRM L1 certificate with OTA update?
No. OnePlus recently outed its plan to upgrade OnePlus 5T to DRM Level 1 but the process requires a secure hardware connection and needs users to send their phones back to OnePlus for 5 days. So, it looks like other OEMs can’t upgrade devices with OTA updates.
How to check Widevine DRM Security Level on your phone?
If you want to check the DRM security level on your phone, you can simply download the free DRM Info App from Play store.
The app is pretty simple. All you need to do is open it and check DRM level under “Google Widevine Modular DRM” heading. If you see L1, your phone supports HD streaming. If you see L3, your phone only supports SD streaming. Android phones only have L1 and L3 certification.
Last updated on April 23, 2018.